By Karen Byko for Island Eye News
For the second time in two weeks, Sullivan’s Island Town Council is calling a Special Meeting regarding last year’s controversial “mediation” settlement involving the 150-acre Maritime Forest. The meeting is Tuesday, October 12 at 9am. This is in response to an overwhelming number of residents who want the Town to re-examine the controversial settlement that allows for massive cutting in the Maritime Forest.
CLICK HERE for the official meeting notice. The Maritime Forest protects residents from hurricanes, storm surge and rising sea levels, while also housing an incredible array of wildlife. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting to show support for this effort by Town Council. The meeting will also be live-streamed.
A Virtual Town Hall to educate the public on the Maritime Forest controversy aired on Facebook and YouTube Sunday at 7pm at Facebook.com/si4all and here on YouTube. It was presented by Sullivan’s Island for All.
In May, four members of the current council were elected in a landslide, which many considered a public response to concerns involving the controversial “mediation” settlement. The settlement, which will allow for widespread cutting of the Maritime Forest was passed last October, during the height of the pandemic with little public input or review.
“On September 21st, citizens from around the island and the Lowcountry showed up to voice their concerns and it appears Town Council has listened,” said Sullivan’s Island for All President Karen Byko. “We are hoping they will take steps to review this mediation settlement in the courts.”
LEGAL OPINION SHEDS LIGHT ON PATH FORWARD
Despite past warnings from those who wrote the settlement that it is ‘unchallengeable,’ there actually is a path forward and there is legal precedent to do so.
Land-Use and Environmental Lawyer Ross Appel researched the issue and provided a thoroughly documented legal opinion to Sullivan’s Island for All that Town Council has two clear legal mechanisms available to challenge the settlement and the court order approving the settlement.
1. The Declaratory Judgement Act: This Act expressly exists for parties to an agreement to be able to determine their rights and responsibilities without first having to default under a contract.
2. Rule 60 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure: This rule provides several options for seeking relief from an approved court order.
Based on legal precedents, it is Mr. Appel’s opinion, that nothing in the Settlement precludes Town Council from taking either of these actions. As we are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the original settlement, Town Council is urged to follow Mr. Appel’s opinions and act immediately to approve the hiring of outside legal counsel to advise on the filing of a Declaratory Judgement and a Rule 60 request for relief under the court order.